Uh, I think THAT counts as the desert start I'm looking for. Dear goodness. And it came on just the second map roll!
Ancient ruins torrented the usual flood of goodies at me. 75 gold, culture (Tradition opener T6), map, Mining, culture again (Legalism turn 9!), 65 gold, Masonry!, survivors to size 4, comp bow upgrade, late culture again on T37, late survivors to size 7 on T41 (that's +60 food!).
I opened scout - scout - shrine with Pottery, and let's take a look.
Things are going crazy well. My second scout got delayed by that barbarian camp so close to my city, but it's under control. That second barb brute is suiciding against my fortified scout across the river, while my starting warrior is returning home to deal with it. We sorted that out and got the scout exploring again. But the warrior had already discovered plenty of nice rich floodplains land. And the original scout out east just popped a ruin to jump Amsterdam to size 4, adding the second gold tile to save two turns on the shrine.
YES. The other big news was finding a religious city-state. Between that and the shrine...
GOT IT, the godly Desert Folklore on turn 18. We're in business now.
I'd accumulated 200-some gold from ruins and city-states. It took a while to meet any rivals (that's a good sign, lots of elbow room.) On turn 15 I finally met someone, Germany. He loaned me the missing 75 gold I needed to buy the worker. I'm quite convinced that's the correct first spending target in any game that doesn't go for the Liberty worker and perhaps even many that do.
Said worker mined the gold, which I sold on turn 22. A few turns later I contacted another rival and borrowed another 112 gold to buy a second worker. This is how you snowball. Sell sell sell. Bought workers pay for themselves in minutes by improving and selling luxuries. And the Dutch are the best civ at selling. Turn 30 saw my second gold sale, to Dido for full value (114 + 4/turn.) Emperor AIs don't always have the 240 gold to pay full price up front for a luxury, so the right answer is to take whatever you can get as long as it totals 230+. I spun that gold sale into buying the marble tile, which got quarried and then sold quickly too.
Of course, even better than buying a worker is stealing one for free. I couldn't resist.
Huh? What? That's a thing? Never seen that before? What exactly are you trying to nerf here? Scouting? I don't get it.
Desert Folklore of course meant a free 6 faith per turn and increasing, and a very early Prophet which arrived on turn 39. I held on to him for a moment. The beliefs would be World Church and Cathedrals, neither of which matters in the short run. No, better was to delay founding the religion until these two cities got the pantheon for free, since founding the religion cuts off pantheon autospread. (I wish they'd fix that.)
Anyway, there I am out to three cities on turn 46. Rotterdam isn't awesome, but want a coastal city for Sydney Opera House, and that spot was at the moment well sheltered from barbarians. Utrecht is awesome, boasting three luxuries, three wheat, and ten floodplains for polders. I did carelessly let myself sink into unhappiness, but I'd bought the copper tile at Rotterdam and was already mining it. Actually, my real mistake on happy was taking Aristocracy before Monarchy when I wasn't building wonders yet.
Two more cities followed quickly (one settler built, one bought with a sale of copper and resale of my first gold after the deal ran out), reaching my full roster of five on turn 59. I bought a fourth worker too. Barbarian activity was high and both gold and marble got pillaged at Amsterdam. That's actually a good thing, since it terminates the active sale letting you resell the resource, and the AIs don't care that they got screwed. (Intentionally allowing barbs to pillage resources is forbidden by CFC HOF rule. I didn't do it intentionally here, and in any case didn't benefit much as both deals were nearing their ends anyway.)
What I haven't figured out is how to keep them happy. Man, happiness was a serious constraint... apparently I've gotten rather dependent on religious beliefs that provide happy and I'm not used to playing without that. Actually I now got help from an unexpected source: bought a Cathedral on turn 56! That's supposed to be for the culture, but every piece of happy helped here. And I staffed the cathedral too in order to get to Monarchy faster. In the medium term, it's usually city-states that relieve this happy crunch, but I've expanded so fast that they haven't had time to ramp up any quests yet for me.
Actually, this happy retardant had a silver lining. Because the cities stayed small for several turns, three of them picked up enough pressure to religiously convert by themselves, nicely saving me some missionary work. I still can't bring myself to intentionally hobble cities to pick up religious spread, but I'll take it when it happens.
A major break came when Hong Kong over there picked up influence from some random quest. As a mercantile with two unique luxuries, this was a whopping +10 happy in all. I had to buy that and did on hocking my next gold resource.
Micromanagement note here, on this barbarian camp. The right move was to attack the brute with my warrior then kill it with my archer, intentionally leaving the camp empty. That way the second brute would walk into the camp. City-states only give influence credit for barbarian kills within 3 tiles of the city, so this made sure I got rewarded for the second kill.
Oh and here, look how I let Zurich's archer do the work, then got the credit for clearing the camp myself.
My next moves included buying another worker when a resource resale came around, a second cathedral, and then a maritime CS for 500 once the happy cap started lifting. And the Tradition finisher hit on turn 74, definitely the earliest I've managed that.
1000 BC: My Greece game had cities at sizes 8, 6, 5, 2, compared to 9, 4, 4, 3, 2 here. Almost exactly the same. But Greece spent policies on the Liberty worker and settler. This game didn't. This game has the Tradition finisher instead. That Greece's snowball accelerators lay behind us, while this game is just about to ramp up bigtime.
That's Petra getting started in Amsterdam. Often I like to build that wonder off-capital. It can find a bigger desert location elsewhere (Amsterdam has only 10 good Petrable tiles), and often it's better to pump up a decent city to awesome than a great city to only slightly more awesome. But here, Amsterdam needs it. A major constraint is a lack of good tiles to plant Landmarks on, we actually need to bring the bare desert up to 1-1-1 for that.
So I had beelined Guilds to get Polders and Petra rolling, then had to hurry my heiney on up to Philosophy for the Oracle. Then Iron Working, needed to find iron for production and also for selling, and get Colossus started because that would be Rotterdam's wonder for Reformation purposes. Then Theology before Civil Service, since Polders obviated the CS food bonus, and Theology gives two wonders not just one.
The first Great Artist spawned very early on just turn 89, thanks to the early cathedral. Placed the landmark here. Then realized a nice play from there. With no multipliers in Amsterdam yet, it doesn't matter which city works the landmark -- so let it be Gronigen to push its borders!
Also at this time I got my seventh policy and had to decide the plan for social development beyond Tradition. I decided here that the right order was Liberty as far as Representation, then Piety. It was still early enough for the worker speed policy to help out. And Representation is major big: with five cities, it cuts policy costs from 160% of base to 140%, which is a 12.5% savings, actually more than Religious Tolerance and should come sooner.
It was also correct to take both Representation and Reformation right away rather than wait for Chichen Itza to lengthen the golden ages. In fact that is always correct if Chichen is more than ten turns away, since immediately saving 10% on policies adds up to more in only 10 turns than earning an extra 20% for an extra 5 GA turns. (And then I missed Chichen Itza here, so not waiting was totally correct.)
Desert Folklore was up over 40 faith and rapidly growing. That went into cathedrals first, for the happy as much as the culture. Missionaries could wait a bit, until the Great Mosque. After four cathedrals, I took one missionary to fulfill a spread quest from a city-state. Then faith accumulated to the enhancement Prophet. I enhanced with Religious Texts, on the thought that Itinerant Preachers is nerfed slightly on this map, because many of the extra tiles that IP would reach don't exist, being beyond the edge of the map or uselessly out in the inland sea. The second Follower Belief I decided had to be Religious Community (+15% production), since these cities are very much hammer constrained, with glorious Polders but only a handful of hills each.
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